Nearby Café Home > Art & Photography > Photocritic International

Dog Days (4): Film Ends

2011 earthquake commemorative t-shirtQuaking in My Boots

Thanks to the several readers who sent expressions of concern. Yes, we survived the August 23rd east-coast earthquake handily — though, working in our second-floor sunporch, I felt the tremor distinctly and recognized it for what it was, having lived in quake-prone San Francisco in the ’60s. My stepson Jacky, elsewhere on the second floor, and my wife Anna, in our basement office, felt it too, as did neighbors who emerged onto the street along our residential block, asking each other what had happened.

No harm done to anything in our locale, certainly not to anything of ours, so far as we can tell. Shouldn’t we at least get complimentary commemorative T-shirts? (I’ll pass on the tattoo.)

Just a few days later, Hurricane Irene arrived, touching down officially late on Saturday, August 27. Dutiful citizens that we are, we heeded the mayoral advisories, laying is a stock of food, filling bathtubs and sinks and pots and bottles with water, securing anything outside that a strong wind might fling about, closing all the windows, battening the hatches, and hunkering down. Or, more precisely, going to bed.

What we got, however, while we slept, was just a heavy rainstorm with some wind, Irene having downgraded itself to mere “tropical storm” level by the time it hit the New York area, with the center passing us miles out to sea. Having lived through sub-tropical rainstorms, and even a typhoon, in Shenzhen, China, this didn’t seem much more threatening. Our house sits on a hillside, well above sea level and half a mile from the harbor. Built in 1910 of stucco-covered hollow-core brick, it’s rock-solid, with new thermal windows and a good roof that, thanks to some spring repairs, proved watertight.

The windows didn’t even rattle in the night. The rain drummed on the panes and the roof, but we stayed snug and safe. Rain and wind persisted off and on through Sunday evening. During one break we took a 15-minute walk, seeing a large piece of tree trunk broken off a neighbor’s old oak, finding a robin’s nest, complete with egg, blown off another tree. We took the egg home to see if we could hatch it, but its night and morning in the cold and wet had done it in.

During the course of a single summer, in fact over a roughly 4-week period, Anna and Jacky have experienced a heat wave, an earthquake, and a hurricane. Since we got deep snow several times last winter, they’ve now seen first-hand pretty much the full range of weather extremes for New York.

Hurricane Irene the day after in Stapleton, Staten Island, 8-28-11. Photo copyright 2011 by Anna Lung.

Hurricane Irene the day after in Stapleton, Staten Island, 8-28-11. Photo copyright 2011 by Anna Lung.

Due no doubt to my emphasis here at Photocritic International on copyright and digital violations thereof, several well-meaning readers have exercised undue caution by asking me for permission to link to my posts, quote from me, and so forth. I appreciate the courtesy, but it’s unnecessary. Let me be clear. As readers of this blog, you have every right to do any or all of the following, without further permission:

  • link to any of my individual posts, or to Photocritic International‘s main page;
  • quote passages from any post — up to 2 paragraphs — in your own posts at your own blog;
  • quote even more if you’re commenting on a particular post or posts at your own site, and need additional passages to make your points;
  • assign any of my posts to your students as required or supplementary readings, if you teach;
  • forward the email version of any post to friends and colleagues, if you subscribe and get this in your inbox;
  • print out a copy of any post as a PDF for offline reading, annotation, etc.

In short, you can do with my published writings here exactly what you can do with the content of any online or print periodical you read regularly. None of my cautionary tales about pursuing infringers should intimidate you, or preclude you from following standard practice (in terms of general reading), informing your friends and acquaintances of something they may find of interest here, or quoting from me according to established guidelines in journalism and scholarship.

Macaque self-portrait, Indonesia, 2011, as captioned by the London Daily Mail.

Macaque self-portrait, Indonesia, 2011, as captioned by the London Daily Mail.

Hot on the heels of the recent disclosure of digital-camera self-portraiture among a macaque monkey tribe comes an account of orangutans using iPads. (See Brian Crecente’s August 16 report in the Tri-City Herald.) Surely primate entry into the blogosphere and the social-media environment — Facebook pages, Flickr and Twitter accounts, etc. — follows next.

If you’ve reached a certain age, have a long-term relationship to analog photography, and need something to depress you further (an unlikely trifecta, I admit), check out the report at CNN titled “Film: Not Dead Yet.” With a female voiceover in a Brit accent and bits of melancholic Erik Satie music in the background, it offers “A unique look into New York City’s still vibrant analog photography community.” (Click here for a text-only version of Cubie King’s voiceover, titled “What film photography still has to offer.”)

I guarantee these snippets of interviews with Steven Sickle of K&M Camera, Lesly Deschler Canossi of the International Center of Photography’s faculty, emerging photographer Colin Houghtrapp and senior photographer Elliott Erwitt, and Hashem Eaddy, Print Space rental-lab manager, will make you feel really old and, if not in the way, definitely marginalized. Consider yourself warned, and don’t blame any subsequent single-malt consumption on me.

If, on the other hand (or at the same time), you keep an open enough mind that the evolving capacities of digital imaging systems can astonish and delight you, see Michael A. Prospero’s September 22, 2010 report “Never Take an Out-of-Focus Picture Again: Adobe’s New Plenoptic Lens” in Laptop: The Pulse of Mobile Tech, and Alyson Shontell’s June 22, 2011 story for Business Insider, “If You Thought Color’s $41 Million Pre-Launch Round Was Big, Lytro’s $50 Million Is Bigger And Worth Every Penny.”

New York Times logoNo, this isn’t about another idiot-proof camera that ensures every image is correctly exposed. It’s about plenoptic lenses that create digital files which enable you, or any viewer of the digital image, to decide during the post-exposure viewing process which element of the image should appear in sharp focus, and to change that decision at will, indefinitely. A slideshow explanation accompanies the Shontell story; for a simulation of the effect, see Steve Lohr’s June 21, 2011 New York Times piece, “A Start-Up’s Camera Lets You Take Shots First and Focus Later .” This so reconfigures our concept of what a photograph is, and how a viewer might interact with it, that it takes the breath away.

 Highly recommended: This short film, Stand Your Ground, produced by the London Street Photography Festival. From the description that accompanies it at YouTube:

Benjamin Franklin on liberty coffee mug“On Tuesday 21 June 2011 six photographers were assigned different areas of the City to photograph. Some used tripods, some went hand held, one set up a 5 x 4. All were instructed to keep to public land and photograph the area as they would on a normal day. The event aimed to test the policing of public and private space by private security firms and their reaction to photographers.
All six photographers were stopped on at least one occasion. Three encounters led to police action. This is what happened.”

A few thoughts:

  • Given that all the buildings in question — buildings with security guards — undoubtedly have multiple security cameras filming passersby on the streets, the claim of their personnel that there are any restrictions on filming the exteriors of those buildings, or people going in and out of them, while standing outside on public property is sheer, unmitigated gall.
  • Security guards in London, like their counterparts in many parts of the world, are either woefully ignorant of the law governing the act of photographing in public places, which reflects poor training and thus incompetence on the part of their superiors, or else are actively trained to lie about that in order to intimidate members of the public, which is illegal and actionable.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” said Thomas Jefferson. And while democracy needs vigilant defense against its external enemies, the premises of democracy need vigilant protection from enemies both without and within. As Ben Franklin admonished, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Photographers need to guard whatever rights they have to observe and describe our behaviors in the public sphere, so I congratulate the London Street Photography Festival for conducting this experiment and making the results available.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 comments to Dog Days (4): Film Ends

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>